2011 MTV VMAs Aim To Up Social Media Integration

From the Grammys to the Golden Globes, numerous award shows have jumped on board the social media bandwagon, aiming to attract more viewers and enhance ratings by integrating new technology that gives the audience a voice.

Now, MTV, a network that has been on the forefront of integrating social media into the experience of their television programming, has added new social features and co-viewing options to their tent-pole event, the 2011 Video Music Awards, which air Sunday, August 28, at 9 PM ET.

While the main focus still remains the live televised awards show, viewers are encouraged to use social media and their various devices -- tablets, smartphones, and their computers -- in addition to tuning in via cable TV, to weigh in on the show. Throughout the telecast, MTV will be using a "Twitter tracker" that measures the popularity of topics on Twitter. MTV explains, "Fans who want to get in on the VMA action can head to our MTV Twitter Tracker, where the section labeled 'buzz' will display photos of the celebs getting the most mentions. The photos will shrink and grow depending on popularity from moment to moment, so you'll always know who's blowing up." The hashtag for the event is #VMA.

Livetweeting and tracking the popularity of a given star or topic has been a staple of past award shows, but this year MTV takes it one step further with the addition of a Hot Seat feature, where fans can visualize the layout inside the Nokia Theater and see where their favorite celebrities are tweeting from.

"When a celebrity tweets, those will pop up over their seat assignment in real time," said Michael Scogin, VP of MTV Mobile. There will be a live "leaderboard" displaying the most popular celebrity tweets and viewers will also be able to rewatch the show's social timeline on the tracker, then delve into the full Twitter timeline of each star in their individual seat.

The show will also have a photographer to shoot red carpet and backstage photos from the event that will then be shared via the @MTV Twitter account. This will allow MTV to disseminate pictures from the show faster than traditional image and media services, and the network will track the popularity and geographic spread of those photos throughout the night.

"You see all these big shows, you see all the paparazzi and you see the step and repeat, but why does it take hours or maybe until the next day before you see all those photos," Scogin said, explaining the thinking behind increasing immediacy in content delivery.

Looking to take advantage of audiences using multiple devices in their living rooms while watching television, MTV will also have a co-viewing experience hosted on its website that will serve as an additive experience to the main event of the VMAs. Fans will have a chance to watch video from the red carpet and backstage by toggling between feeds from more than 6 different cameras around the Nokia Live theater, selecting their own camera views or following the main MTV feed.

"We were concerned about not creating something so involved that it would take away from the main linear experience," Colin Helms, VP of MTV Digital, told HuffPost about the decision to leave the camera feeds un-produced and more voyeuristic. "We want to create an experience that you can glance down, watch it, and it is additive to the produced television broadcast."

MTV will also be pushing content from the VMAs throughout their various social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Last year MTV tracked more than 1.5 million tweets during the first 3 hours of broadcast. According to MTV, at the time of this post, more than 5.7 million tweets relating to the VMAs have been sent since August 22nd.

What do you think of these social media features? Are they distracting or a terrific idea? What else would you like to see?